Mother of Nine Accused of Starving 4-Year-Old Daughter

Average 4-year-olds weigh about 34 pounds, nearly twice as much as the suspect's daughter

After her 4-year-old daughter was dropped off at a hospital weighing just 18 pounds, an Orange County mother of nine is facing multiple counts of child abuse, authorities said.

Antonia Benitez, 35, of Santa Ana, was arrested Thursday, the Orange County District Attorney said.

She ran after leaving her daughter at a hospital June 4, according to the OC DA.

The 4-year-old girl was suffering from an infected wound on her leg and malnutrition, the OC DA said. Doctors at the time called Social Services which in turn alerted Santa Ana police.

In July 2012, Benitez allegedly took her daughter to the hospital for being underweight. That instance was not reported to police, the Orange County District Attorney said.

The average 4-year-old weighs about 34 pounds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Benitez’s daughter weighed about 18 pounds when she was taken to the hospital last month.

All nine of Benitez's children, ranging in age from 4 to 16, are under the care of Social Services or family members. Two fathers are connected with Benitez's nine children, but the 35-year-old mother was raising them on her own, police said.

The OC District Attorney has filed three counts of felony child abuse against Benitez.

She is being held on $250,000 bail, and is scheduled to appear in court Friday for an arraignment.

If convicted, Benitez faces a maximum sentence of 14 years and six months in state prison.

To report child abuse in Southern California, call these numbers:

NBC4's Vikki Vargas contributed to this report.

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